Share auto-rickshaws: a lifeline or a menace?

The Tamil Nadu government sanctioned around 200 three-wheeler share auto-rickshaws, which are allowed to transport five persons, in Chennai.

The Tamil Nadu government sanctioned around 200 three-wheeler share auto-rickshaws, which are allowed to transport five persons, in Chennai.  

The majority of them are illegal, but they serve an unmet need. Opinion is divided on whether they should be regularised

A common sight in the city is nearly a dozen men and women cramped into a regular auto-rickshaw masquerading as a ‘share auto-rickshaw’. The State Transport Department, police and commuters alike are concerned that most of them ply illegally. Weeding them out, however, has proven to be difficult.

The government sanctioned three-wheeler share auto-rickshaws, which are allowed to transport five persons apart from the driver — around 200 such vehicles were sanctioned in Chennai, and 50 each in the State’s district headquarters.

The fare was also fixed at ₹1 per passenger. S. Ezhumalai, president of the Chennai and Suburban Share Auto-rickshaw Drivers’ Union (CSSADU), claimed that these “original share auto-rickshaws” are Minidor (Force Motors) vehicles painted yellow and black. “These vehicles cannot ply fast. Our vehicles have not met with any accident till date. We have also been roped in by the Chennai Metro for last-mile connectivity,” he explained.

Changing modes

However, 10 years ago, many other brands of vehicles (such as Ape and Tata Magic) began plying as share auto-rickshaws. “Ape auto-rickshaws can only ply on meters like ‘normal’ auto-rickshaws and can carry only three persons. Tata Magic vehicles are only [meant for] contract carriage — they can only be booked by passengers from one point to another. They are allowed to carry six persons. They cannot charge per passenger,” said S. Selvaraj, secretary, CSSADU.

M. Sekhar, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Share Vehicles General Trade Union, said that he had been requesting the government to provide permits for Ape and Tata Magic vehicles to ply as share auto-rickshaws.

“But this has not been done. The public prefers this mode of transport,” he explained.

Need to regulate

Many residents of Old Mahablipuram Road and East Coast Road feel that such services, although illegal, are a boon to office-goers. They want the government to regulate them at the earliest.

“Sometimes, four passengers can be found sitting near the driver — the seating arrangement has been modified in such a manner. A few months ago, they used to charge ₹10 per person, now the fare is ₹20,” said J. Kesavan, a resident of OMR, who uses them for his commute.

“They are also causing traffic problems inside the city as the illegal share auto-rickshaws park their vehicles abruptly in the middle [of the road]. This can be seen in Choolaimedu, near the Tiruvanmiyur bus terminus, Guindy, and near the Tidel Park signal,” said Sri Lakshmi, a resident of Neelankarai.

Lifeline of the north

In north Chennai, share autos are a lifeline for many residents.

They connect areas such as M.R. Nagar, M.K.B. Nagar, Dr. Ambedkar College, Vyasarpadi, Pulianthope, Purasawalkam, Central station, Beach station, Parrys, Royapuram, Washermanpet, Mannady, Tiruvottiyur, Moolakadai, Perambur and Kolathur.

“People largely rely on share auto-rickshaws as there are fewer bus services in this part of the city. The movement of people is also more, and so, many, including students, prefer not to wait for buses, and opt instead to commute in share auto-rickshaws,” said Jagadeesh, an auto-rickshaw driver.

He and one of his peers used to drive share auto-rickshaws but switched over to app-based services due to health issues in the form of backaches, and the entry of young drivers.

“We cannot compete with them. They drive rashly, causing accidents, and stop the vehicles haphazardly,” Mr. Jagadeesh said.

Senior Transport Department officials and traffic police officers said they had been taking action against such illegal share auto-rickshaws.

“We conduct raids and seize the vehicles,” said a transport official.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 1:21:19 AM |

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